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  • Writer's pictureAlan Martin

Games played in 2013 #3: Hotline Miami

A New Year’s Resolution of mine is to write more. To help this along, I’m going to write some stuff about any game that grabs me enough to finish in 2013 - the only rule is that I won’t bother if I’m reviewing it elsewhere, because that would be wholly pointless. I’m also delighted to say, my last post encouraged at least one person to buy The Walking Dead - take a bow, Debbie.

There’s plenty of things I can say for myself with certainty: I will never enjoy camping; I find songs by The Ting Tings massively irritating; I will (probably) never play for Derby County. One certainty that was challenged with Hotline Miami was this little gem though:

I will never enjoy battering a man’s skull in with a brick, while wearing a rubber animal mask.

To be fair, this wasn’t one of life’s great ethical questions, and it’s seldom asked in polite conversation. But blasting all the way through Hotline Miami, the top down retro indie game in a few hours (it’s quite short) was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, busted skulls and all.

If you were to glance at screenshots, which you can do if you like above, you’d probably come to the conclusion that it’s a Grand Theft Auto clone. But not a 3D Grand Theft Auto clone, an old school top-down car thieving, hari-krishna running down, cartoony take on organized crime. It’s not really… well not entirely. It’s actually like a cross between original GTA and another Rockstar game: Manhunt.

Because it requires quite a lot of planning and stealth, and it constantly reminds you that even the best laid plans of mice and men can be derailed… especially if said plans involve smacking a guard to the floor with a door, grabbing his AK47 and blasting the remaining guards to the floor in a blaze of blood and glory. One shot kills, and the guards aren’t shy about taking that one shot.

On top of that, firing a gun makes noise, and noise attracts others from the building. Unlike the hand-holding modern games of the minute, where ducking behind cover for a moment will miraculously cure that punctured lung, or broken legs, if you’re hit in Hotline Miami, then you go back to the start. Fortunately rounds are pretty quick if you do everything right, which makes it like the trial and error of Super Meat Boy.

As fun as the gameplay is though, the thing that will stick with me about Hotline Miami (and I can actually prove this: I finished it in January, but have been lax at updating my little corner of the internet) is the end of each mission. Once everyone is wiped out, the hypnotic rave music and sound of bullets and death is suddenly cut out, and you calmly navigate your murderous psychopath back through the building, through the collection of corpses you left en-route. It’s pretty rare for a game to make you revisit your actions, and although it’s not a ‘what does it all mean’ moment, it does at least give you a few tranquil minutes to reflect on the nature of over-the-top videogame violence.

So I think on balance, I probably wouldn’t enjoy caving in a man’s skull with a brick. With or without an animal mask.

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Note: This post originally appeared on The Inquirer, which heartbreakingly closed in December 2019, losing a huge amount of my best work in the process. Given it's all been scrubbed from the internet


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